Blue House Bistro

(Holland, MI) Late last year, we got an invitation to visit the newly-opened Blue House Bistro in Holland. We’ve been to New Orleans a few times and being big fans of Creole food, you didn’t need to twist our arms too much. Finally, on a windy but nice spring day, we joined friends for lunch, all of us looking forward to some authentic gulf coast cuisine...



He Fed:

We arrive before JoJo and Ivy, so choose a four-top table near the beverage cooler after our server bids us sit anywhere we like. There is only one other table occupied in the small dining area, which is more well-appointed than I’d expected. Since Blue House doesn’t have a license to serve liquor (they can sell it, but not serve it), we opt for water and hot tea.

Both of us are peckish, so we order apps immediately. I am enthralled by the prospect of the Phyllo Feta Rolls, creamed feta mixed with herbs, thinly rolled into phyllo dough “tubes” then seared until lightly crispy. They practically melt in my mouth and marinara helps cool them down. There is supposed to be tzatziki sauce as well but none on the plate. Maybe they’re just out? We also order the Mediterranean Sampler, featuring hummus, spicy feta cheese spread, and greek olives with warm pita bread. What we actually get is a delicious lump of hummus surrounded by a paltry sprinkling of spicy feta (not a spread), a smattering of minced olives, and toasted bread rounds (not pita). All of it is delicious, especially mixed together, and the toast is perfectly done—slightly crispy on the outside, soft inside—but I can feel some doubt creeping in. It is a new menu, I tell myself, so maybe some of the components are still being tweaked. At least it all tastes good!

Soon thereafter, our friends arrive to partake in the appetizers. We’re anxious to move on to main courses, though. The girls start with tomato bisque while Ivy and I abstain, mulling over the choices. I have honed in on one of the features: Red Beans and Rice with Fried Chicken. Juliet beats me to the punch, so I’m forced to rethink my strategy. After some conference, Ivy and I agree to split the Cajun Muffaletta and Shrimp Po-boy sandwiches. The muffaletta arrives split in two, but the po-boy is one huge honking sandwich. Ivy asks the server if the kitchen could please slice it in two? She comes back a few minutes later to announce the kitchen declines to cut it because the sandwich will fall apart, but gives him a knife to do it himself(?!?) My doubt cranks up to eleven, making me uncomfortable for my friend.

No matter; he forges ahead and expertly slices the sandwich is half. We trade and begin to eat. The muffaletta hits the right notes: a firm bun, melted mozzarella cheese, salty black olive spread, and thinly sliced meat. There is supposed to be smoked ham, roasted turkey, and pastrami but I’m only tasting ham. Turkey might be hiding within the folds of deli-style meat but I’m pretty sure there is no pastrami. It’s a good sandwich, on the small side for a muffaletta. As for the shrimp po-boy, it is deeply disappointing. The toasted French loaf does its best to contain the fried popcorn shrimp, which are like standard, near-tasteless pre-packaged frozen seafood. There is supposed to be onion, romaine, Roma tomatoes, and dill pickles on the sandwich, but I can only find a small strip of tomato on the bottom. The sauce is spare and does nothing to assuage the dry shrimp. Thin fries, paired with both sandwiches, are pretty good and I find some solace there as we finish our lunch.

We went to Blue House Bistro looking for a lunch that might take us back to Louisiana, if only for an afternoon, but ultimately leave unsatisfied. The menu promises dishes prepared with regional authenticity. That promise fell short of the mark for us.
She Fed:

I've been anticipating this lunch for months. The chef at Blue House Bistro invited us out earlier this winter and for some reason we haven't been able to get there until now. My travel schedule and Michigan's insane winter are probably to blame. The story behind the chef and how her restaurant came to be in Holland is inspiring. Both Jeremy and I love Cajun food, so I am confident we are in for a fabulous experience. The fact that Ivy and JoJo can join us only makes it more special.

Jeremy and I arrive and take a booth for four. Like a dummy, I skipped breakfast and now I'm famished. We should have waited for Ivy and JoJo, but they call to tell us they're running late and my hunger is entering the "dangerously bitchy" stage, so we order two starters. None of the apps on the menu are Cajun so we go Greek instead. The Mediterranean plate with hummus, Greek olives, spicy feta cheese spread and warmed pita bread and the phyllo Feta rolls with marinara and tzatziki sauce sound perfect. But when they arrive, they're not quite as described. The Mediterranean platter has about a tablespoon of olive salad in place of the Greek olives, the "cheese spread" is actually Feta chunks with paprika sprinkled atop and the warm pita bread is replaced by buttered toasted baguette slices. The tzatziki sauce is missing from the phyllo rolls. It all tastes quite good, but the lack of attention to detail is slightly annoying. Maybe it's my low blood sugar talking!

JoJo and Ivy arrive and we pore over the menu. I decide on the red beans and rice served with fried chicken. Ivy and Jeremy decide to split the muffaletta and the shrimp po-boy while JoJo goes for the eggplant Parmesan sandwich (which was my second choice). JoJo and I also decide to try the tomato bisque, which is delivered in small quiche dishes/mini-tart crocks, with two more slices of the toasted baguette. The dishes are cute, but I feel like I'm spending a lot of time chasing the soup around the ridged sides. The bisque is rich and tomatoey, but nothing I haven't had elsewhere.

Our mains arrive and the first thing I notice is that JoJo's sandwich seems devoid of the generous schmear of marinara and melty cheese you normally see on eggplant parm sandwiches. When she peeks under the three slabs of breaded eggplant there's a small dollop of red sauce and some partially melted mozzerella. This is not the "ooey-gooey" sandwich I was expecting to see and I am immediately glad I didn't order it. The boys report the shrimp po-boy to be "fine" and the muffaletta to be much better. But they discover the filling of "ham, turkey and pastrami" to be only ham. My very generous portion of red beans and rice is accompanied by a lightly breaded boneless skinless chicken breast. The beans and rice are tasty, but slightly dry, like they need a scootch of the bean cooking liquid drizzled over them. There's three half moons of sausage in with the beans, but it's bland. In fact, there is no heat to the dish. No slow burn, no spiciness whatsoever. I should have asked for some hot sauce on the side to perk it up. I concentrate on the chicken and beans, which are pretty good together.

Our waitress brings the check with no offer of dessert or coffee. As much as I want to rave about this place, I am deeply disappointed in the overall experience. I'm hoping we caught them on a bad day.
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